Moon Croatia & Slovenia: With Montenegro
Beaches & Waterfalls, Coastal Drives, Castles & Ruins
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- Flexible itineraries from one week in each country to two weeks in both, including a side trip to Montenegro, plus how to make the most of short stays in Zagreb, Dubrovnik, and Ljubljana
- Suggestions for a Dalmatian Islands getaway and other day trips to escape the city crowds
- Must-see highlights and unique experiences: Go truffle hunting in Istria or taste homemade vintages on an ancient wine route. Walk along the creamy stone and red-tiled roofs inside Dubrovnik's 15th-century walls or wander through Ljubljana's historic Tivoli Park. Leave crowded beaches behind and hire a boat to explore lesser-known islands. Wind your way up snowy Mount Sljeme, hike to caves and waterfalls in Croatia's Plitvice Lakes National Park or go rafting in Slovenia's Soca River
- Expert insight on when to go, what to do, and where to stay from former Zagreb local Shann Fountain Alipour
- Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
- Background information on the landscape, history, and cultural customs of each country
- Handy tools such as visa information, Croatian, Slovenian, and Montenegrin phrasebooks
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DISCOVER Croatia & Slovenia
9 TOP EXPERIENCES
Planning Your Trip
IF YOU LIKE…
IF YOU HAVE…
DRIVING THE ADRIATIC COAST
The Best of Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro
THE WINES OF CROATIA AND SLOVENIA
Island-Hopping the Dalmatian Islands
PICK YOUR NATIONAL PARK
Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro have so much to offer. In an area the size of the state of Maine, you’ll find sunny cities crisscrossed by winding cobblestone streets, blue gem lakes set amongst white-capped mountains, a crystalline sea, colorful festivals, great food and wine, and much more. Spend two weeks here and you will likely feel you need two more.
Though tourists have long been frequenting Dubrovnik and the glitzy island of Hvar, and more recently discovering the charms of capital cities Zagreb and Ljubljana, there are still many places in these countries that are relatively undiscovered. Go to some of the lesser-known islands in the off-season, or head to inland Croatia or Slovenia almost any time of year, and you will find you’re the only tourist for miles.
Croatia and Slovenia have shared many rulers, wars, and various foreign empires over their histories—Roman, Venetian, Austro-Hungarian—and each has added a flavorful layer to the culture, architecture, and cuisine of these countries. Montenegro shares a fair amount of this history too, though its long occupation by the Ottomans gives it a special flair. However, the countries all remain distinct, with their own languages, customs, and cultures as different as the topography you’ll traverse. Drive a few hours and you’ll see everything from a sparkling coastline and barren-rock hinterlands to rolling hills of grapevines, thick green forests, and snow-topped mountains.
This diversity means there really is something for every sort of traveler. Hit up Istria for food, wine, and truffle-hunting; Zagreb or Ljubljana for a cosmopolitan, European vibe with a twist; Dubrovnik for Roman and Venetian history at every turn; the islands for soaking up the sun; the mountains of Slovenia for skiing and adventure sports; or Slavonia for taking the road less traveled.
No matter how you plan your trip, you’re likely to leave already planning your next one. Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro may be known quantities these days, but they haven’t lost the wild and wonderful quality that keeps you feeling you’ve truly gone somewhere special.
9 TOP EXPERIENCES
1 Lounging on the rocks, pebbles, and sands of the region’s best beaches.
2 Shopping with the locals in Zagreb’s Dolac Market, grabbing supplies for a picnic or local honey to pack in your suitcase.
3 Tasting the fruits of Istria’s bountiful harvest, from truffles to wine.
4 Feeling the mist on your face from Croatia’s awesome waterfalls, from the terraced cascades of Plitvice Lakes National Park to the foaming waters of Krka National Park.
5 Exploring the winding streets of Diocletian’s Palace, a wonderfully preserved Roman monument that’s still very much alive today, filled with bustling shops, cafés, and restaurants.
6 Walking the medieval walls of Dubrovnik or Kotor in Montenegro, taking in striking views from every angle.
7 Wandering Plečnik’s Ljubljana, marveling at the impact one architect had on the cityscape of Slovenia’s capital.
8 Island-hopping the Dalmatian Islands, discovering glitzy seaside resorts, remote beaches, and charming villages untouched by time.
9 Admiring the famous view of the Church of the Assumption, crowning a tiny island in the center of the deep blue Lake Bled.
Planning Your Trip
Where to Go
Croatia’s charming, lively capital is the cultural and social heart of the country. Local life revolves around the bustling squares and streets of Lower Town. For history, head to Upper Town with its quiet, winding cobblestone roads, stunning churches, and excellent museums. Bridging old and new are the delightful Tkalčićeva and Radićeva streets with their boutiques and cafés. Mount Sljeme, just out of town, is the place locals go to hike and enjoy the nature on weekends.
Inland Croatia remains relatively undiscovered, dotted with picturesque villages, excellent restaurants, and seoski turizam establishments, where you can sleep like a local and wake up to the rooster’s crow. Vineyards dot the countryside, and natural escapes abound, from the stork-filled wetlands of Lonjsko polje, to the mountains of the Žumberak, to the famous Plitvice Lakes National Park. The easternmost region of Slavonia, still feeling the effects of the Homeland War almost 30 years ago, is full of friendly people eager to show off their towns to visitors.
Ferries depart from the laid-back port town of Rijeka for the stunning islands of the Kvarner Gulf, such as Rab, with its preserved old town and colorful festivals; Krk, drawing a younger, party-loving crowd; genteel Lošinj; and relatively undeveloped Cres, whose clay cliffs jut into the remotest portions of Croatia’s Adriatic.
Istria and Coastal Slovenia
This tiny peninsula wedged between Croatia and Slovenia, and only a stone’s throw from Italy, packs a big punch. You can sun yourself on a rocky beach in the morning, retreat inland to picturesque hilltop towns for lunch, and finish off the day with dinner in a bustling medieval city back on the coast. Istria is most famous for three things, and you shouldn’t miss any of them: the Roman amphitheater in Pula, wine, and truffles. But there’s more to unearth here, from tiny little villages like Hum to a taste of the faded grandeur of the Tito era in the Brijuni Islands.
While not as grand as the Croatian coast just to the south, the coast of Slovenia has many charms of its own. Venetian-influenced Piran is the pride of the Slovenian coast and a good starting point for those exploring the region.
Zadar and Northern Dalmatia
The northern coast is full of Roman-Venetian architecture, starting with the impressive old towns of Zadar and Šibenik. Beaches can be filled to capacity in the summer, but you should be able to find a relatively roomy one by hiring a boat to take you to one of the little islands just off the coast, each with a culture and personality all its own.
Split and Southern Dalmatia
Split is the boundary between north and south on the Dalmatian coast, important not only because it’s the second-largest city in Croatia and for its dozens of connections to the Croatian islands, but also for the beautiful Diocletian’s Palace in the heart of town. Hvar has already made a name for itself as a glitzy island destination, but it’s not alone in its beauty. From the former pirate stronghold, Omiš, to the purported birthplace of Marco Polo on Korčula, to rafting the Cetina Gorge, there’s something here for every traveler.
Dubrovnik, Croatia’s most famous city, hosts masses of tourists, and it’s easy to see why when you first spot the dramatic walled city on a cliff, with grand architecture, sunny cream stone, and red-tiled roofs contrasting with the blue Adriatic Sea. Explore the winding old streets, feeling like you’re on the set of Game of Thrones, then head to the island of Lokrum just offshore for a break from the crowds.
Ljubljana may be small, but it has a cultural menu to rival much larger capitals: a hilltop castle, funky nightlife, and a strong sense of self. It’s impossible to ignore the influence architect Jože Plečnik had on the city; his touch is all over Ljubljana, including its famous Triple Bridge, the colonnaded market, and many a tree-lined promenade. The cultural, social, and political capital of Slovenia is also home to an impressive selection of museums and galleries.
Filled with mountains, lakes, rivers, and caves, Slovenia’s interior is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. There’s also food, culture, and history to be discovered, including wineries, Roman ruins, herding settlements, and centuries-old churches and castles. The region’s most famous town is Bled, with its church-topped island in the center of the mountain-rimmed lake, but its gem might be the alpine Logar Valley to the east, rimmed by massive snow-capped peaks. Those into rafting and adventure sports will be happiest around Triglav National Park, with plenty of adrenaline-pumping activity.
To the west, Postojna Cave and Škocjan Caves are worth a visit, while Predjama Castle, built into a rock face high above a village, is straight out of a storybook.
Montenegro is a tiny country with a wide variety of terrain and experiences. If you love beachside lounging, you will find plenty of company at the beaches in Budva. The Gulf of Kotor, with the famous walled city of Kotor and the island church of Our Lady of the Rocks, as well as the inland town of Cetinje, the cultural and erstwhile capital of Montenegro, are a must for culture and history buffs. Lake Skadar and Lovćen National Park are great places to hike and get away from it all. If you’re really tight on time, a day trip to Herceg Novi from Dubrovnik can give you a little taste of the country.
When to Go
Coastal Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro all have a Mediterranean climate with hot summers (78-86°F/26-30°C) and mild winters (41-50°F/5-10°C). Inland areas tend to be cooler (70-80°F/20-30°C in summer, 23-41°F/-5-5°C in winter).
July and August are the busiest months on the coast—beaches and nightclubs are packed, and many of the coastal towns hold colorful festivals. But overall, they’re probably the worst months to visit the region. Temperatures soar and hotels fill up, even at the most expensive high-season rates, and inland capitals are often fled by the locals, who’ve joined all the foreigners by the sea.
June and September are ideal for visiting the coast or cities in the interior. The waters are warm enough for swimming, and the biggest influxes of visitors are between these relatively peaceful months. If swimming’s not your thing, then March, April, May, and October are possibly even better—walk around a town in the early morning, and you may think you’re the first to discover a destination.
Autumn is a great season for visiting Istria and inland Croatia and Slovenia, when wine is harvested, leaves turn to shades of gold, and the crisp air is invigorating.
Winter, when most hotels and restaurants are at their cheapest, can be a great time to visit Dalmatia and Istria, as you might have them all to yourself. Keep in mind that some hotels and restaurants will be closed, particularly on the islands and in Montenegro. Inland Croatia and Slovenia are cold and gray, but holiday markets bring life to Zagreb and Ljubljana. In the colder months, Triglav National Park and Bled in Slovenia become winter sports destinations.
Before You Go
Passports and Visas
To enter Croatia and Slovenia, U.S., U.K., Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand citizens need only a passport for stays up to 90 days. Citizens of the EU and Switzerland can visit for up to 30 days with a national identity card.
To enter Montenegro, U.S., U.K., European, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand citizens will need only a passport; no visa is required for stays up to 30 days.
Citizens of other countries should check visa regulations for Croatia and Slovenia.
Getting to Croatia and Slovenia is easier than ever before, particularly in summer, when low-cost airlines offer flights from major European hubs such as London and Frankfurt. Croatia and Slovenia’s main air carriers (Croatia Airlines and Adria Airways, respectively) are supplemented by companies such as EasyJet, Ryanair, and GermanWings. Croatia’s main airports are located in Zagreb and Split, though airports in Dubrovnik, Pula, and Rijeka see their share of travelers during the summer months; Slovenia’s only major airport is in the capital, Ljubljana.
Montenegro has two airports, in the capital Podgorica and at Tivat, servicing the coast. Both offer daily flights to and from European destinations, with low-cost carriers like Norwegian Air, WOWair, Ryanair, and EasyJet being the most common. Another option is to fly into Dubrovnik, where organized transfer buses take tourists the 15-minute drive to the Montenegro border and beyond multiple times a day.
By Train and Bus
Train service is frequent and reliable in both Slovenia and Croatia, with at least 2-3 daily trains linking capitals Ljubljana and Zagreb with Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Serbia. Trains tend to be older than what you’ll find in Western Europe, and they’re often slower, too. Bus service is actually better, though buses have been known to deposit regular customers close to their homes, making the journey a little longer than planned from time to time.
If you’ll be sticking to larger towns, public transportation is an excellent option for getting around both Slovenia and Croatia. Buses and trains are frequent, safe, and reliable. Montenegro has frequent inter-city bus connections and an extremely cheap yet infrequent train connection between Serbia and Bar.
In the summer, ferries connect cities like Split, Dubrovnik, and Pula in Croatia and Portorož and Piran in Slovenia with Venice and Italy’s northern coast. The islands off the Croatian coast are all connected via ferry, more frequent in summer.
If you’re planning on exploring smaller villages or following the regions’ wine routes, you’ll find renting a car to be a lifesaver. Arranging for the car before you come usually secures a better price.
What to Pack
In summer, pack a good sun hat, sunglasses, and a bathing suit, as well as layers for the occasional chilly night, or to cover your shoulders if you happen to visit a church. Also be sure to bring a pair of sandals for entering the water at rocky beaches. In fall and winter, pack a coat and an umbrella for occasional rain. If you want to blend in with the locals, leave the Birkenstocks and pack your most fashionable clothes. Croatians, Slovenians, and Montenegrins all love to look their best. A sturdy pair of tennis shoes should do you for most hikes, unless you’re taking on something more ambitious.
Electronics-wise, an unlocked phone allows you to buy a tourist SIM card at your destination, so you can get data for navigation, posting on social media, and checking your email. Bring a converter for 220/240V.
Croatia is set to switch its currency from the Croatian kuna to the euro as of January 1, 2023. Prices throughout the book have been converted to euro from the kuna price; actual euro prices may vary. Slovenia and Montenegro also use the euro.
The Best of Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro
Covering the Slovenian and Croatian capitals and the must-see stops of three countries in only two weeks, this whirlwind trip combines both mountains and sea, UNESCO World Heritage sites and urban centers. This tour starts in Ljubljana, a charming capital city with good connections to most major European cities. From here, rent a car to experience the best of the region; the border crossings are easy as you wind your way south through Croatia and down to Montenegro, and you’ll even be able to ride a few car ferries on the way.
Spots on the car ferry can be booked in advance online, but you should still get to the dock an hour early to ensure your car’s spot on the boat. The ferries on this itinerary, operated by Jadrolinija, run at least three times daily year-round.
Day 1: Ljubljana
After landing in Ljubljana, refresh at your hotel before heading out for an afternoon stroll around the cobblestone streets of the
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